Jose Esteban Munoz (1967-2013) was assistant professor of performance studies at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University.
Nowhere does the ambivalence of the minority culture toward the mainstream show itself more strongly than in the arts. In this densely academic work, Mu¤oz (performance studies, NYU's Tisch Sch. of the Arts) posits this ambivalence as an essential tool of performance artists in their reaction to and relation to a mainstream culture that often rejects them. Through a process that Mu¤oz terms "disidentification," artists, especially those within sexual and racial minorities, hold a distorted mirror to that culture through such techniques as camp and drag, lampoon, social satire, and outrageousness. By turning the dominant culture on its head, these performers call the emperor on his new clothes, revealing a white heterosexist society intolerant if not downright violent toward dissenting voices. A challenging, sometimes revolutionary work that should be added to serious performing arts and larger gay studies collections.ÄJeff Ingram, Newport P.L., OR Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
In eight essays (six of them previously published), Mu¤oz, an assistant professor of performance studies at NYU, explores the political and social impact of black, Latino and Asian performance artists on mainstream culture. Drawing on a wide range of examplesÄfrom Jean-Michel Basquiat's painting and his relationship with Andy Warhol to filmmaker Isaac Julian's response to Robert Mapplethorpe's photographs of African-American men, to the camp performance work of Cubana artists Ela Troyano and Carmelita TropicanaÄMu¤oz outlines a process he calls "disidentification," in which an artist works inside the dominant culture while at the same time critiquing it. His insights into the complex ways that race, sexual difference, ethnicity, class and "professionalization" influence each artist's work can be startling, as when he compares mainstream drag films like To Wong Foo... to the work of transgressive drag performers like Vaginal Creme Davis, or when he reveals how Superman comics can be understood as a response to anti-Semitism. However, when he explores the work of the late Pedro Zamora (of MTV's The Real World) and claims that the Cubano star with AIDS "used MTV more then it used him," or when he discusses Magic Johnson's AIDS education work yet overlooks the gender politics of his message, his analysis can come off as na‹ve. While these essays are consistently enlightening and provocative, their dependence on academic rhetoric makes them resistant to casual reading. (June) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.